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February 24, 2023, Lviv, Ukraine – Riding trains overnight in a warzone, attending meetings in bomb shelters and the funeral of young soldiers slain in war, talking to war victims and to the people who reach out to them in service. These are some of the highlights that Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, shared in a webinar about her mid-February solidarity visit to Ukraine.
As President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA), Sister Donna traveled to Ukraine for her week-long visit to “get a sense of the reality” of the women and children coming to the United States from Ukraine. The visit is a follow-up to a meeting about a year ago between Sister Donna, senior staff members of CCUSA, and Ukrainian bishops to discuss how CCUSA could reach out and support refugees from Ukraine.
In addition, Sister Donna said, she made the dangerous journey to Ukraine to meet with her counterparts – staff members of Caritas Ukraine – to learn about their experiences and to engage with the Church leaders about the “severe, massive trauma” inflicted on the Ukrainian people during the war with Russia.
Sister Donna’s journey took her and her traveling companions – Archbishop Borys Gudziak; Father Roman Oliinyk, a Ukrainian priest from Pennsylvania; and Bishop John Barres of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York – from Warsaw, Poland, to Lviv to attend a funeral of two young Ukrainian soldiers killed that week. While there, they also visited a military rehabilitation hospital for patients suffering from war injuries.
In Kyiv, Sister Donna and her companions met with her counterparts in Caritas Ukraine, who serve in a center that ministers to “literally tens of thousands of people who have been internally displaced” by the war. “Caritas Ukraine is providing the same kinds of things that Catholic Charities is providing at our border with our migrants – the blankets, clean clothing, bedding, [and] toiletries,” she said. “And they’re doing that with thousands of people every day.”
Sister Donna’s time in Kyiv also gave her the opportunity to hear about other issues the Ukrainian people have faced during the ongoing war:
the massacre by Russian soldiers of the citizens of the town of Bucha in the early period of the war,
a woman medic’s account of her 94-days of imprisonment and torture by Russians.
Back in Lviv, she met with the students at the Ukrainian Catholic University, had breakfast with special needs young adults living in Emmaus House on the university campus, and experienced meetings in a bomb shelter during attacks on the city.
As a follow up to her visit, Sister Donna said she plans to develop materials that can be used in training in “managing trauma, largely for the leaders and for students so that they will have some tools in the healing process once they’re in their own communities.” In turn, she said, Catholic Charities will “do everything possible to help the women and children [refugees in the United States] to heal from the trauma.”
Sister Donna concluded by suggesting ways that people in the United States can help the people of Ukraine. “Mostly, they need our friendship,” she said. “They need to know that they are not standing alone. They need to know that we care about them and that we’ll do whatever is possible for us to help them.”
Sister Donna also suggested the concerned people send donations – to Catholic Charities under the umbrella of refugees to help Ukrainian refugees in the United States and to Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. Catholic Church’s relief organization for the rest of the world.
Watch a recording of Sister Donna’s webinar.
Feature photo: Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, right, examines the many donations made to the people of Ukraine through Caritas Ukraine in Kyiv. Screenshot from Solidarity Visit to Ukraine Webinar
May 4, 2022, Washington, D.C. – Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) met May 3, 2022, with five Ukrainian bishops in the United States to discuss the role of CCUSA in the resettlement of Ukrainian refugees.
“The focus of the meeting was to plan for the arrival of Ukrainian refugees,” Sister Donna said. “Catholic Charities USA pledged to do everything possible to assist the bishops as they receive their people. This will include financial support, housing support, jobs training, trauma counseling, and whatever else is needed.”
Sister Donna said the meeting began with a prayer as the bishops chanted an Easter hymn in their language in several parts. “It was a heart-wrenching meeting as we heard stories of the suffering of their people from men who have family still in Ukraine,” she said.
More information on this resettlement effort will be posted as the planning and implementation proceed.
In addition to immigration advocacy and refugee services, CCUSA works through its member agencies throughout the United States in areas such as affordable housing, food and nutrition, integrated health, social enterprise initiatives, advocacy and social policy initiatives, and disaster relief. Donations to Catholic Charities for resettlement of Ukrainian refugees or other programs can be made online or mailed to Catholic Charities USA, 2050 Ballenger Ave., Alexandria, VA 22314.
Featured photo: Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, and colleagues from Catholic Charities USA meet with five Ukrainian bishops in the United States to plan the resettlement of Ukrainian refugees.